Multiple charges brought against imprisoned, tortured protest leader 

Detained protest leader Man Zar Myay Mon from Chaung-U, Sagaing Region, is facing five charges of incitement under Section 505a of the penal code, according to a family member. 

The relative said that the 28-year-old activist had been tortured in prison and had his fingers broken during his interrogation. 

Man Zar Myay Mon went into hiding in Shanhtu village after a warrant was issued for his arrest in April, but was captured by the junta’s troops on the morning of June 8. 

In an attempt to escape, he had fallen off his motorbike and suffered an injury to his thigh; Myanmar Now had previously been told that Man Zar Myay Mon was shot in the leg as he tried to flee. 

For the next five days after his arrest, he was questioned in the Monywa interrogation center in Sagaing, and since then has been detained in Monywa Prison. 

Man Zar Myay Mon had his third hearing in the prison court on Wednesday, where he was able to meet with his lawyers in person, according to the family member. 

“He still isn’t in the best of health thanks to the military breaking his fingers during interrogation. We really need to make sure justice is served for that,” the relative said, adding that Man Zar Myay Mon’s leg had not yet reportedly healed from the earlier injury. 

The family member said that among the activist’s charges are allegations that he was involved in other cases to which he has no ties. 

“He’s facing five charges in total, being dragged into other people’s cases as well. He doesn’t even know all those people involved in the other cases,” the family member told Myanmar Now. 

“I’d be able to accept it if he was sued for being politically active, because that would at least be the truth. But it’s just unfair that he’s facing charges for crimes he doesn’t even know about,” the relative added. 

Myanmar Now made several attempts to contact the military council’s information officers regarding the family member’s claims, but all calls went unanswered.

Man Zar Myay Mon, who had previously worked as a freelance journalist, also took part in the Letpadan students’ strike in Sagaing in 2014. He also tried to run in the 2020 general election in Chaung-U representing the NLD, but did not receive the party nomination.

In his work as an environmental and land rights defender, Man Zar Myay Mon carried out extensive research on the country’s notorious mining sector. In addition to being a member of the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), a leading civil society network focused on the extractive sector, Man Zar Myay Mon also belongs to the Sagaing Region coordination unit of the Myanmar Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). 

MATA released a statement on June 8 calling for the immediate release of political prisoners including Man Zar Myay Mon. 

EITI also published a request on June 10 calling on the military to not unlawfully detain civil society members and democracy advocates such as Man Zar Myay Mon, and to release those already in prison.

International extractive industry transparency campaign Publish What You Pay expressed its concern for Man Zar Myay Mon in detention and advocated for his release. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor also released a statement expressing concern about Man Zar Myay Mon’s arrest. 

Following the February 1 coup, the military council increased the prison sentence associated with violating Section 505a from two to three years, and has repeatedly used the charge against civilians who oppose them. 

Despite releasing hundreds of detainees charged under Section 505a on June 30, there were still more than 5,000 people in detention as of Wednesday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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